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Less than 24 hours after finishing the Leadville Trail 100 MTB, Alex Howes outsprinted Ian Boswell and Pete Stetina to win SBT Gravel in Steamboat Springs, Colorado on Sunday. In the women’s race, 2021 Unbound Gravel 200 champion Lauren De Crescenzo won ahead of U.S. national road champion Lauren Stephens and Flavia Oliveira.
Howes’ luck turns
Alex Howes (EF Education-Nippo) saw his bad luck on Saturday turn overnight into good fortune. The vehicle Howes was in was hit from behind, damaging his rear wheel and forcing his team mechanic to scramble in the midnight hours to get the bike repaired in time for the early morning start.
The SBT GRVL Black course started with about 1,500 riders, and the group whittled down and whittled down until only five riders were left in the final miles: Howes, Boswell, Stetina, Freddy Ovett (L39ion of Los Angeles) and Adam Roberge (Pinarello). Ovett and Roberge were disconnected through the final gravel section of Cow Creek, and the remaining trio sprinted it out in downtown Steamboat Springs.
Boswell, the 2021 Unbound Gravel 200 champion, finished second, and Stetina, who had just placed fourth the day before at Leadville, crossed the line for third. Stetina became the overall winner of the weekend’s LeadBoat Challenge.
“I went into Leadville feeling pretty confident thinking I was flying,” Howes said at the finish. “I felt terrible yesterday and then got in a car accident on the way here, got hit from behind. My rig was on the back so we had to scramble last night. It was bad, so moral was low coming into Steamboat.”
Boswell was the only one in the group with fresh legs after the others had suffered at high altitude in Leadville. The race was tough from the start, kicking off in the early morning hours under clear skies. The climbs proved to be the deciding factor where the trio made their moves attacking each other.
“We were full gas most of the day, the climbs broke it up,” he said. “I could tell I was kind of on the back foot on the hills, so it was one of the bigger ones where I sent it trying to create a gap. Happy that I did because it allowed me to survive for the other ones. Pete and Ian were climbing super well, better than me but they couldn’t ditch me.”
Coming into the finish, it was the veterans of the road who were leading, ready to sprint for the win.
“I thought it would be a little more tactical early on,” Howes said. “We had that tricky section coming down to the finish there. I don’t know where all the mountain bikers were. I made poor Pete lead out the sprint and then I hit turbo. I was cramping the last 60km. Ian was sprinting good but at the end of a hard day, it’s anybody’s game.”
SBT GRVL marks the second victory in the discipline after Howes won the Ned Gravel in his hometown of Nederland, Colorado on July 31.
Top-5 men’s results
1. Alex Howes (EF Education-Nippo), 06:19:44
2. Ian Boswell (Wahoo), 06:19:45
3. Peter Stetina (Canyon), 06:19:45
4. Adam Roberge (Scuderia Pinarello), 06:21:10
5. Freddy Ovett (L39gion of Los Angeles), 06:21:14
De Crescenzo rolls with the men for the win
De Crescenzo and Stephens were together for much of the day, riding in the front group with the leading men early on. Oliveira, Crystal Anthony (Liv Racing), Whitney Allison (Bike Sports) and Emily Newsom (Tibco-SVB) chased behind, and latched back on with the two Laurens towards the middle of the race.
While the rest of the women stopped at the fourth of six aid stations, De Crescenzo was able to keep riding, and once she got a gap and was riding with some male racers, she never gave up the lead.
Stephens finished ten minutes down for second, with Brazilian Flavia Oliveira in third.
“I remembered early on that I wasn’t going to do anything crazy in the first 40 miles when Lauren (Stephens) made a little gap on me,” De Crescenzo said. “I stayed within myself. I still pushed hard but I didn’t want to blow up before with 100 miles to go. I caught her group on the way out of the bottom loop.”
“My big move was on the second climb. It was me, and Stephens, and some other guys. We were just waiting and waiting for the first climb. As soon as we got to the climb, I kicked into action and alright, I am ready to do this interval on this really long climb. It was easy and very comfortable. I kept going really, really fast because I knew the girls were right there.”
Racing at altitude is nothing new for De Crescenzo, who grew up in the high mountains of Colorado and has family in Steamboat Springs. Her family was cheering her on at the finish.
“It’s amazing to win a hometown race. I just wanted to make my dad proud today.”
After some celebration with the family, De Crescenzo heads up to Nebraska for Gravel Worlds next weekend.
Top-5 Women’s results
1. Lauren De Crescenzo (Cinch), 06:45:36
2. Lauren Stephens (Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank), 06:55:36
3. Flavia Oliveira (Excel Sports), 06:59:34
4. Crystal Anthony (Liv Racing), 07:09:11
5. Whitney Allison (Bike Sports), 07:09:14